Why does my dog freak out over the smell of coffee grounds?

April 8, 2019

Dear Joan: We have an 8-year old Australian shepherd, Zorro, normally rational if somewhat excitable, who goes absolutely bonkers when I try to dump coffee grounds into the garden.

We have had him since he was a pup, and very much doubt that he has had any traumatic experiences with coffee grounds, but he has always done this.

What do you make of this? Iíve heard of lamb phobia in herding dogs, but coffee-ground phobia?

ó Sharon

Dear Sharon: I have good news and bad news about Zorro.

The good news is heís smarter than many dogs and knows that coffee grounds are bad for canines if they eat them or if they drink the coffee that comes from them.

The bad news is Zorro will never work at Starbucks.

Dogs, just like people, have preferences when it comes to odors. I donít really like the smell of coffee either, although I wouldnít growl and try to keep you from putting the grounds on your plants. Zorro apparently has a strong dislike for the smell and doesnít want it stinking up his yard, which is not without irony considering many dogs like to roll in poo and other disgusting things.

Itís probably just in the way that the brain registers odors. A scent can smell differently to different dogs and people. I have friends who love the smell of lilies. To me, they smell like smoke.

Itís the same thing with dogs that have a lamb phobia. No one really knows why the aroma of lamb cooking can create a panic attack in certain dogs, and itís not just herding dogs that get upset ó after all, youíre cooking a member of the flock heís supposed to keep safe. The phobia can be found in non-herding dogs, too.

The coffee grounds phobia seems on par with the lamb, and many people report their dogs and cats have an aversion to the odor. One recipe for keeping stray cats and wandering dogs from using your flower beds and lawns as their personal potties is to scatter ground orange peels and coffee grounds ó a solution that will work for animals that donít like those aromas but wonít stop those that like them.

You can try to acclimate Zorro to the smell, but then you might create another problem. If Zorro begins liking the aroma, he might eat some, and ingesting coffee grounds can cause caffeine poisoning.

Dear Joan: I was reading about squirrels and mockingbirds being a problem in peopleís yards. I have four cats ó I keep them in at night ó and the squirrels stay in the trees and the mockingbirds have only come once. My neighbor even said the squirrels are nonexistent since my cats moved in.

I know cats are not easy but the alternative isnít either.

ó Dana

DEAR DANA: Yes, there are things to be said for outdoor cats. They can keep the mouse, vole and rat population down, and they might keep some other creatures at bay. Unfortunately, cats also kill birds and lizards. And there are bigger and more determined creatures out there that can harm your cats, which is why I recommend keeping cats safely indoors or in an outdoor enclosure. Iím willing to put up with the squirrels and mockers for the sake of having a healthy house cat.


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